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Coronavirus update: Merck pill one step closer to approval

The U.S. has imposed new travel restrictions on foreign visitors

COVID-19 pill concept
Photo (c) Andriy Onufriyenko - Getty Images
Coronavirus (COVID-19) ‌tally‌ ‌as‌ ‌‌compiled‌‌ ‌by‌ ‌Johns‌ ‌Hopkins‌ ‌University.‌ ‌(Previous‌ ‌numbers‌ ‌in‌ ‌parentheses.)‌

Total‌ ‌U.S.‌ ‌confirmed‌ ‌cases:‌ 48,577,181 (48,454,229)‌

Total‌ ‌U.S.‌ ‌deaths:‌ 780,443 (778,870)

Total‌ ‌global‌ ‌cases:‌ 263,070,422 (262,416,000)

Total‌ ‌global‌ ‌deaths:‌ 5,220,373 (5,211,983)‌

FDA committee votes to approve Merck pill

In a close vote, a U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) advisory committee has recommended that the agency approve the use of Merck’s new COVID-19 treatment pill. 

The agency will now decide whether to grant emergency use authorization for the drug molnupiravir, which would be the first oral antiviral treatment for COVID-19 that could be taken at home. 

The earliest clinical study of the drug found that it cuts the risk of hospitalization and death by 50% if taken early on after infection. However, a follow-up analysis of the data found the efficacy was only 30%.

U.S. imposes restrictions on people entering the country

The U.S. government has taken steps to try to slow the spread of the Omicron variant to the U.S. Customs officials will soon require that all foreign travelers arriving at U.S. airports produce a negative COVID-19 test performed a day before departure.

It’s only a slight change from current protocols. Under existing rules, international travelers can show a negative test administered up to three days before departure.

Several European countries have imposed travel restrictions on flights from Africa, where the variant was first discovered. Over the weekend, Dr. Anthony Fauci, President Biden’s chief health adviser, said it’s very possible that the Omicron variant is already present in the U.S.

Researchers focus on COVID-19 misinformation ‘triggers’

As controversy and conspiracy theories about COVID-19 flood social media, health policymakers are looking for ways to combat misinformation that they say is needlessly costing lives. New research suggests that changing the way scientific information is gathered and released could go a long way.

With heightened public interest in any COVID-19 news, researchers at the University of Sydney say too many studies get released without proper vetting, sometimes leading to confusion and doubt. They point to the production of fraudulent or biased science research, ‘publish or perish’ research culture, inadequate training in research misconduct, problems in the academic publishing system, and lack of public access to high-quality research.

“To prevent or reduce misinformation, key changes are needed, from within the research community, academic and media publishing systems, and government funding processes,” the authors write.

Around the nation

  • Connecticut: The number of new infections is climbing across the state despite efforts to slow the spread of the virus. In the last week, infections are up 6%. "The 6% is really the highest we've been in close to a year," said Gov. Ned Lamont. "This, in a state that is the most vaccinated in the country."

  • Ohio: A Cincinnati TV station claims that the state is spending thousands of dollars to keep the number of COVID-19 nursing home deaths secret. “These are the people’s records. They are not ODH’s (Ohio Department of Health) records. They belong to every citizen in the state of Ohio,” said Darren Ford, an attorney for WCPO-TV. 

  • Nevada: The University of Nevada’s head basketball coach, Steve Alford, has tested positive for COVID-19, according to the university’s athletic department. Officials say Alford will be absent from the Wolf Pack’s next three games.

  • North Carolina: State health officials are cautiously optimistic about their fight against the coronavirus, noting that new cases fell nearly 30% to start the week. But they note that the Thanksgiving holiday may have significantly reduced the number of people who got tested and the number of tests that got processed.

  • Montana: The state health department is blaming the Thanksgiving holiday for an uptick in new cases of the virus. The Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services (DPHHS) reported 601 new cases of COVID-19 on Tuesday, a reversal of a recent downward trend.

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